St. Paul’s Hospital Performs Unprecedented Number of Mechanical Heart Implants

Vancouver, May 28, 2008 — Physicians, patients and representatives from the Province and Provincial Health Services Authority gathered at a news conference today to recognize the B.C. Acute Heart Failure Program’s unprecedented number of ventricular assist devices (VADs, also commonly known as mechanical hearts) implanted this year – more than any other program of its kind in Canada.
A record-setting ten VAD implants have been performed at St. Paul’s so far this year. Five of these procedures took place in the month of May alone with three within the same 24-hour period. Since January, eight lives have been saved with VAD technology, including one patient as young as 19 years of age. Without this lifesaving surgery, almost all of these patients would have died.

“I would like to recognize the amazing work and significant role of everyone involved in the B.C. Acute Heart Failure Program which has helped save the lives of British Columbians and other Canadians,” said Lorne Mayencourt, MLA for Vancouver-Burrard, who attended the news conference on behalf of the Minister of Health. “The record number of mechanical heart implants is a tremendous accomplishment for our health system.”

The B.C. Acute Heart Failure Program, part of Providence Health Care’s Heart + Lung Institute at St. Paul’s Hospital, is the only program in B.C. which provides the full range of specialized care to patients with critical heart failure. It is currently the biggest and busiest program of its kind in Canada, now receiving referrals not only from B.C., but also from other provinces such as Alberta and Manitoba.

The program is a national leader in Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) implants, equipping critically ill heart failure patients with mechanical heart pumps to keep them alive until they can receive a heart transplant. VADs can relieve the symptoms of critical heart failure if needed for up to five years and allow patients to live at home and even return to work while they wait for a heart transplant.

Also present at today’s news conference were some current and former patients whose lives have been saved by the new and revolutionary treatments available through the B.C. Acute Heart Failure Program. Robin Tsai, a 29–year old patient, shared his story and expressed gratitude for his new heart. He lived at home with a VAD implant that he received last July until he received a heart transplant in December.

“We wish to thank Cardiac Services BC of the Provincial Health Services Authority and Vancouver Coastal Health for recognizing the importance of this program and for their generous funding and support,” said Dr. Ron Carere, Associate Director of the Heart + Lung Institute. “This support allows us to provide immediate urgent care to patients who would otherwise not survive, giving them a new opportunity and hope for the future.”

About the Acute Heart Failure Program
Launched in May 2002 and funded through Cardiac Services BC (a program operated by the Provincial Health Services Authority) and Providence Health Care, the B.C. Acute Heart Failure Program boasts some impressive firsts. Cardiac specialists at the program were the first in North America to successfully perform two breakthrough heart-pump implants in patients with failing hearts using new-generation VADs, including North America’s first clinical use of the tiny temporary VAD called Impella® (Abiomed) and North America’s first clinical use of the new, long-term VAD called HeartMate II® (Thoratec Corp.) that can work for many years. The HeartMate II® allows patients to live at home with the device in place while they wait for a heart transplant.

About Providence Health Care’s Heart + Lung Institute
Launched in June 2007, the Providence Heart + Lung Institute at St. Paul's Hospital merges and integrates all of Providence’s heart and lung research, education and care programs under one umbrella. Its mandate is to transform cardiovascular and pulmonary research and care—transferring new care solutions from the laboratory to the clinics and communities to improve the lives of British Columbians.

About Providence Health Care
Providence Health Care (PHC) is Canada's largest faith-based health care organization, operating 14 health care facilities in Greater Vancouver that provide acute, residential, rehabilitation and community kidney dialysis services. Guided by the principle “How you want to be treated,” PHC's 1,000 physicians and 6,000 staff deliver compassionate care to more than 450,000 patients and residents each year. Teaching and research are conducted in affiliation with the University of British Columbia and other institutions of higher education. PHC's facilities include: St. Paul's Hospital, Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, Holy Family Hospital, St. Vincent's Hospitals (Brock Fahrni Pavilion and Langara), Youville Residence, Marion Hospice and community dialysis clinics in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond, Sechelt, Squamish and Powell River. For more information on Providence Health Care, please visit our website at

Note to editors/reporters - the following are available upon request:

• A backgrounder on the B.C. Acute Heart Failure Program at St. Paul’s Hospital
• Interviews with current and former patients and their families
• B-roll animation showing how VAD implants work
• HeartMate II® Fact Sheet from Thoratec Corporation
• Impella® Fact Sheet from Abiomed
• Photos of the news conference participants
• News conference footage on YouTube

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Leah Lockhart
Communications Specialist
Providence Health Care
Tel: 604.806.8882
Media Pager: 604.252.4261